Of Air Returned by Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys

i.

I burned my soul to ash but the pain paled in comparison to the terror that struck my heart like a match, anticipating her arrival and the tirade she would carry in tow. An unwarranted fear, as she was calm when she saw what I had done. Calm and nurturing. Soothing my pain with herbs and aromas, and each early morning during the hour of the wolf, she laid an ear on my back and listened as my soul mended itself.

She never spoke the words of disappointment aloud but it registered in her eyes. Although residing within my body, this wounded thing, this unwanted soul, did not belong to me. She had laid claim to it many years past, and in my despondency, I had taken liberties with her property and attempted to destroy it. Again.

ii.

The first time, I threw my soul into a sinkhole and allowed the ground to swallow it whole. I made her acquaintance when she plucked it from the soil like a tattered tuber.

“I saw what you did,” she said. “And since you would so recklessly toss this precious thing away, it is no longer yours, but mine, agreed?”

I nodded and she handed my soul back to me for safe keeping.

I honored our pact for a few years, caring for it within my limited capacity, but during a particularly nasty bout of depression, I tied heavy stones to my soul and pushed it off the sea wall. For a second time, she appeared, fishing my soul from the waves and scolded me.

“You are charged with protecting this thing that is mine, do you understand?”

Again, I nodded. Again, I lied.

iii.

“Why do you want this worthless soul when it has been crushed by the earth? Why do you want it when it has been drowned in the sea? Why do you want it when it has been set aflame like so much tinder?” I searched long and hard yet found no answer in her silence.

iv.

During the day, when she thought me preoccupied, she secreted herself in the shadows and slept. One day I followed her into the darkness and watched her body twitch from dreaming and listened as she muttered,

One more soul, once buried deep.

One more soul, in ocean steeped.

One more soul, by fire burned.

One more soul, of air returned.

v.

Under her care, my soul grew healthier and it frightened me. I was pitilessly plagued and badgered by the phrase, One more soul, of air returned, that repeated in my mind’s ear until it turned dogged and cacophonous. But she was unaware of my inner torment, in fact, she was in an exceptionally good mood today, her voice almost a song, “I know you don’t see it, but you are a gift, you are. You have no idea just how special.”

vi.

Today was the day. I felt it in my marrow. Something was destined to happen, something I most likely would not survive. I should have embraced this eerie premonition, for it was no secret that I did not want to continue in this manner, broken, detached and alone. But the choice of how and when I departed this wretched life was mine to make and mine alone. So, I stalled by distracting her with trivialities.

“May I have more broth? Have you seen my shoes? No, not that pair, the other ones? Can we go for a walk?”

If she knew my plan, her expression never showed any sign. No request was too large or small on this day. She granted them all.

vii.

We strolled along the pathway in the park that led to the duck pond, a place we visited often during my convalescence. Picked, naturally, as not to arouse suspicion as I searched for the proper diversion in order to make my escape. But I was so wrapped in my own thoughts, I failed to notice that she was walking slower than usual today.

“Can we rest a moment?” she asked as we neared the benches. “I am a little short of breath.”

Her breathing became a labored and raspy thing before it hitched and became lodged in her throat. When her face went dusky blue and she slid off the park bench, I panicked. The opportunity had presented itself and there I stood like an idiot, frozen. Entangled in the decision of whose life to save, or more accurately, whose death I could live with.

There was no real choice.

viii.

Her breathing was a trembling, liquid sound as I pressed my mouth to hers and exhaled, but instead of me breathing air into her body, I felt her sucking air from my lungs, and not just air…

I tried desperately to pull away but her thin, vise-like hands clamped down on the nape of my neck and held me firm in a kiss that was collapsing me. My hold on life became dim and futile, but before I slipped away into emptiness, I noticed the oddest thing: her belly began to swell.

Every fiber of my actuality was drawn into her, and my soul, the object I had forever been so reckless with, was systematically being stripped of concern, of negativity, of identity. I fell further and further into a darkness that pressed on me from all sides. So tight, so constricted. I was still unable to breathe but the sensation was somehow different now.

At the very moment when it seemed the darkness was about to claim me for eternity, there came a burst of light so bright as to cut my eyes. Thankfully something soon blotted out the light – a face, slowly coming into focus but I knew her before I saw her. From the moment I heard her soft cooing, “You are a gift, you are. You have no idea just how special.”

Mother.

-RHYAN SCORPIO-RHYS

Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys is cursed for denying the existence of his hybrid Human/Muse parentage and compelled to forever navigate between the worlds of the Mundane and Humankind, but finds occasional solace in writing. More of his insanity can be viewed at MADD FICTIONAL.

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20 Comments Add yours

  1. Terveen Gill says:

    Rhyan’s writing is a beautiful mixture of poise, emotion, and intrigue. The reader is pulled in right from the beginning and as the plot thickens, the heart sinks with every line. What is this peculiar relation between the two characters? Why is one intent on destruction and the other on salvation? But the ending clears up any doubts or inhibitions one has. The greatest force of nurture – mother. Perfect.
    Congratulations Rhyan!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very kindly, Terveen.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. CucaGobleDrinks says:

    Very interesting story with a sort of esoteric and supernatural feel to it. I had no idea where it was heading and the end was a shocker. I’m glad you shared it with us.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Much appreciated. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, it means the world to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. floweringink says:

    This is so good! Inventive and Beautiful! Like nothing I have ever read!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the story! Thank you so very much for the compliment!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. elcieloyelinfierno says:

    Bright entrance, full of contradictory darkness and light at the same time. A sore soul that wants to disappear, but a being of light that insists otherwise. A very good final shot, realizing … it’s more fantastic to be than to appear. A cordial greeting.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well put. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. jonicaggiano says:

    Wow, very original style of writing. I have never read anything quite like this. At first I thought the women (mother) was a sacred sort of soul that really did care about his lost soul. However, what a wild twist toward the end and one thing I really like about your piece is that you are left with questions. What was the lost soul going to try, he was up to something with her, and then in the end we think she was the soul that indeed cared about him. Or was she, did she switch souls and he would become the individual taking care of unhappy souls and she just wanted to go, which ultimately was what he had wanted. I guess I need to hear more. Quite a story you weave. Congratulations on your publication and very interesting and complex tale. Joni

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Joni, the comment below was meant for you. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I posted an introduction to this story on my blog: “According to an old Chinese saying, “When you save a person’s life, you are responsible for it forever,” but what happens if that person continues to toss it away? How do you care for a life that the owner deems worthless?”

    Did the woman actually care for the person or just the person’s soul? Were her actions altruistic or did she have an ulterior motive? Was her final decision fair or did she commit a crime against the natural order of things? Was the soul truly hers to recycle? I have my thoughts on the matter but I always enjoy listening to other people’s take on things.

    Thank you so very kindly for taking the time to read the piece and for sharing your thoughts. It is greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. jonicaggiano says:

    Well that would explain it. I like Reading it without that knowledge. It made for a very different story with lots of potential twist. Great piece of writing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The gray area between the writer’s intentions and the reader’s interpretation is where a story’s magic lives. Thanks again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. jonicaggiano says:

        I know right, that is so very true. Thank you and have a wonderful day. 🤗

        Liked by 1 person

  8. A pull in both directions – of mystic and reality. A perfect blending by the way the story is written. An absolutely fascinating read.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, that’s very kind of you to say.

      Liked by 1 person

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